INTERNATIONAL

China rings in `Year of the Pig'

A woman holds up a toy pig to usher in the `Year of the Pig' in Beijing on Saturday.   | Photo Credit: PHOTO: AFP

Pallavi Aiyar

Surge expected in number of newborns as those born in pig years are lucky with money

Beijing: For the 1.3-billion strong Chinese people, this Sunday marks the start of the "year of the pig," according to the Chinese lunar calendar.

The pig is one of the 12 animals in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac. According to Chinese astrology, people born in pig years are polite, honest, hardworking and loyal.

Baby boom

More significantly, they are lucky with money and business, which is why hospitals around the mainland are gearing up for a baby boom.

The Shanghai Population and Family Planning Commission expects 7,000 more births in Shanghai this year, while the Hong Kong Hospital Authority predicts an 11 per cent rise in the number of newborns. Life Times, a weekly newspaper, quoted an official saying that Beijing alone could see 1,70,000 births this year, up 50,000 from 2006.

Parents in China are especially keen on having "pig" babies this year because it is also a rare year of the "golden pig," a year that comes only once in 60 years. The last "lucky" year, the year of the dragon in 2000, also witnessed a surge in the number of newborns. As a result, children born in 2000 are facing stiff competition for enrollment in schools in some parts of China.

This year's cohort of "pig" babies is also likely to face tough competition when they reach school-going age.

Call to city planners

In Shanghai, deputies to the local legislature's advisory body have called on city planners to start taking auspicious years into account when considering education demand.

A one-week national holiday will begin from Sunday and celebrations include setting off fireworks, hanging up red lanterns and eating special foods like dumplings.

The festival period also sees one of the largest domestic movements of people in the world as millions of migrant workers who toil in factories along China's booming eastern seaboard return home to spend the holidays with their families, joined in their journey by tens of thousands of students making similar trips home for their university vacation.

Some famous "pigs" from around the world include: Chiang Kai Sheikh, Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarznegger, Lee Kuan Yew, Woody Allen and Salman Rushdie.